How to keep pets safe during 'bomb cyclone'

With the East Coast being hit by a "bomb cyclone," officials are warning not to keep pets out in the cold too long.

The Humane Society of the United States said in a news release Thursday, Jan. 4, that pets should be kept indoors and that the animals should be provided a "safe environment," especially during cold snaps.

Temperatures will be dropping below freezing — even reaching the single digits this weekend.

Dogs play in the snow at Canine Meadows in Springettsbury Township, Wednesday, January 3, 2018. John A. Pavoncello photo

Locals: York County veterinarians agreed.

Dr. Sara Alfano, a veterinarian at Hill Street Veterinary Hospital in Spring Garden Township, said keeping pets indoors was important.

"If they do have to go outside for walks, limit their exposure time," she said. 

She advised only letting them outside for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Hallam Animal Hospital veterinarian Dr. Ossama Amin recommended no more than five minutes in freezing or subzero temperatures, especially with older or very young animals.

They are "much more sensitive to the cold," he said, warning to be extra careful with young puppies.

Amin said pet owners can buy booties at the pet store to protect their pets' feet from the cold when walking them, and he encourages owners to go outside with their pets to avoid any problems that may occur if they are out of sight.

The amount of exposure a dog can withstand depends on the breed, Alfano said, recommending that small dogs with thin skin might need a coat to protect them.

Since temperatures drop overnight, Amin said pet owners should keep them inside. 

Alfano said when pets are outside, it's important to also check that their water did not freeze and make sure they are dry — for instance, not running outside after receiving a bath.

If pets are acting lethargic, frequently licking certain spots or limping, it could be a sign that snow and ice is stuck between their paw pads. Pet owners should clean those out after they come in from outside, Alfano said.

The Humane Society also urges anyone who witnesses animals being left out in the cold to contact law enforcement and report the concern. 

Here are five recommendations from the Humane Society to keep pets safe in the winter:

• Keep pets sheltered.

• Put a sweater on short-haired dogs to prevent frostbite and hypothermia.

• Remove poisons such as de-icing salt and anti-freeze

• Bang on your car's hood to ensure no animals are hiding underneath it during the winter months.

• Voice concern to pet owners who are keeping animals out in the cold.

— Staff reporter Christopher Dornblaser contributed to this report.